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Costly posturing: Relative status, ceremonies and early child development

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  • Chen, Xi
  • Zhang, Xiaobo

Abstract

Though social spending facilitates risk-pooling in the impoverished regions, too many resources devoted to social occasions may impose negative externalities and hinder efforts to alleviate poverty for households living close to subsistence. Conducting three waves census-type panel survey in rural western China with well-defined reference groups and detailed information on social occasions, gift exchanges, nutrients intake and health outcomes, we find that the squeeze effect originated from lavish ceremonies is associated with lower height-for-age zscore, higher probability of stunting and underweight in early child development. The lasting impact suggests that 'catch up' is limited. The squeeze is stronger for the fetal period and towards the lower tail of the distribution. Specifically, 39.2%, 33.3% and 64.6% of the sampled households suffer from net squeeze effect on stunting, underweight and lower height-for-age zscore, respectively. The squeeze effect is stronger for 1-3 age cohorts and between 2007 and 2009. We provide suggestive evidence on the intermediate pathways linking social events with poor health outcomes, such as share of food expenditure and basic nutrients intake. Our findings suggest more efficient policy interventions that target the households with pregnant women and of lower social rankings. --

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Paper provided by Leib­niz Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe (IAMO) in its series IAMO Forum 2011: Will the "BRICs Decade" Continue? – Prospects for Trade and Growth with number 7.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:iamo11:7

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Keywords: Relative Status; Squeeze Effect; Nutrients Intake; Stunting; Underweight; Gender;

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  1. Alderman,Harold & Hoddinott, John & Kinsey, Bill, 2003. "Long-term consequences of early childhood malnutrition," FCND briefs, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 168, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  2. Thomas, Duncan & Strauss, John, 1997. "Health and wages: Evidence on men and women in urban Brazil," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 159-185, March.
  3. Fafchamps, Marcel & Shilpi, Forhad, 2006. "Subjective Welfare, Isolation and Relative Consumption," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 6002, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Carlos Bozzoli & Angus Deaton & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2007. "Child mortality, income and adult height," Working Papers, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing. 230, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  5. Brown, Philip H. & Bulte, Erwin & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2010. "Positional spending and status seeking in rural China," IFPRI discussion papers, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 983, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  6. Horton, Susan, 1988. "Birth Order and Child Nutritional Status: Evidence from the Philippines," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 341-54, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Chen, Xi & Kanbur, Ravi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2011. "Peer effects, risk pooling, and status seeking: What explains gift spending escalation in rural China?," IFPRI discussion papers, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 1151, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  2. Chen, Xi, 2011. "Accounting for social spending escalation in rural China," IAMO Forum 2011: Will the "BRICs Decade" Continue? – Prospects for Trade and Growth 6, Leib­niz Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe (IAMO).

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